Skip to content

Today’s post was written by and used with permission from Rusty Wright
---------
I cannot imagine perceiving my father as a monster.

Bart Millard saw his father as a monster and more.

My dad was warm, gracious, fun, affirming, friendly, professional, caring. A loving husband. By example and precept he inspired me to aim high in life, school, work, and relationships. As a boy, I loved playing catch with him, shooting baskets, attending football games, hanging out. Throughout life, when I failed, he was there to console me, to help me pick up the pieces and move on in a positive direction.

Bart’s dad, Arthur, was any kid’s worst nightmare. Anger and rage consumed him often and drove Bart’s mother away. Bart often felt the leather strap and paddle. “As I became a mischievous toddler,” he recalls, “my spankings slowly escalated from normal discipline to verbal and physical abuse.” Arthur once smashed a dinner plate over Bart’s head. Eventually physical abuse morphed into silence and indifference.

Hopeless highway to hell?

I Can Only Imagine could be a depressing movie and book if the story ended there. But the tale behind the popular song of the same name by the band MercyMe could inspire anyone whose life has seemed a hopeless highway to hell. The cast includes Dennis Quaid, Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman, singer Trace Adkins, author/actress Priscilla Shirer, and Broadway singer J. Michael Finley.

Bart is careful to explain some factors beyond his dad’s control that contributed to poor character development. Arthur’s own father’s divorce and quick remarriage had thrust ten-year-old Arthur into head-of-household responsibilities far too early, sowing seeds of anger and bitterness.

Arthur became a well-liked local high school football star in Texas, but later dropped off the SMU football team to care for things at home, sacrificing a possible NFL career. “Dreams” were worthless; “reality” was what counted. He made sure his son knew that “Dreams don’t pay the bills.”

A horrible on-the-job traffic accident put Arthur in a coma for eight weeks. After that, his temperament seemed skewed, and rage filled their home.

Prodigal father; unforgiving son

Young Bart found escape from family strife and loneliness in music and friends, often through his church youth group. Inspirational music lifted his spirits. The group leader and members helped instill stability and faith. During a camp session, Bart placed his trust in Jesus. But he couldn’t forgive his dad.

The film and book depict with grace, tenderness, and beauty what became of this prodigal father and his unforgiving son. I won’t spoil the story for you, but suffice it to say that the path to redemption and restoration was pretty amazing. In his book, Bart affirms his belief that “God transformed the monster I hated into the man I wanted to become. …From an abusive dad to a loving father. From a heart of stone to a life of grace.”

Mainstream media surprise

I Can Only Imagine” – Bart’s tribute song for his father, performed with MercyMe – eventually became a smash hit on Christian media. Then a mainstream FM radio DJ with a reputation for sometimes crude dialogue played it as a joke for his listeners. Phone lines lit up. People wanted “to talk about what the words meant to them and how it made them feel.”

The DJ invited the band to be on his show and the song’s popularity spread among mainstream stations. MercyMe appeared on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show and on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and now has performed at Radio City Music Hall, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, CNN and ABC News.

Paul, an early follower of Jesus, wrote of his Lord’s ability “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Getting Bart to forgive his dad falls into that category. This film is well worth seeing, contemplating, and applying.

Rated PG (USA) “for thematic elements including some violence.”

Opens March 16.

I Can Only Imagine Official Page USA

I Can Only Imagine Official Page Canada

Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

I Can Only Imagine poster

Long-time readers of this blog will know that Rusty Wright has contributed many articles to it over the years. Some have been co-written by his wife Meg Korpi. I was very sad to learn that Meg has passed away after suffering with cancer for the last few years. Today's post is a tribute to her, written by Rusty, and shared with permission.
---------

Meg Korpi 1953-2016 Wonderful wife, committed partner, faithful friend
Meg Korpi 1953-2016 Wonderful wife, committed partner, faithful friend

Recently, when my wife, Meg Korpi, was dying of cancer, a longtime friend offered some advice I'm really glad I heeded.

"Hutch" Hutchins told me I should write a tribute, expressing what she's meant to me and how much I love her. I should frame it, give it to her, and read it to her personally.

Meg was on home hospice care after a three-and-a-half-year struggle with ovarian cancer. I was her primary caregiver – a demanding, 24/7 responsibility – and was reeling with exhaustion. But his advice clicked. I read the tribute to her on May 21, our 16th anniversary.

It had a very positive effect…calming, soothing. She seemed at peace, contented, with brightened spirits. It was one of her last lucid days before dying a month later.

Tribute to a rare jewel

Meg was a rare jewel. In her wedding vows, she had said she wanted me to feel like "the most blessed man alive to be married to" her. I did. In this tribute, I told her that in her, God gave me:

• A gorgeous bundle of fun, adventure, character, and faith

• A godly woman who walks closely with Him

• A faithful friend – my very best friend – and companion

• A keen mind to help me think through life's sometimes perplexing issues

• A wise counselor with sound advice at crucial junctures

• A determined spirit to prompt me to reconsider my course when needed

• A sweet lover (Whew!)

• A fun woman, whose sense of humor brings delight. I love to laugh with you!

Thank you so, so much for loving me unconditionally; for honoring and respecting me; for caring and encouraging; for listening to my heart; for sharing my joys and hurts; for looking out for my interests; for being there through good times and bad; for facing life with me as long as we both shall live.

I love you very much, and am eternally grateful to be your husband.

* * *
Lots of laughter

We loved to laugh. As world travelers, sometimes we laughed about language translation complexities.

60 Minutes television veteran Mike Wallace, speaking through an interpreter, once asked former Russian president Boris Yeltsin if he weren't being a bit "thin skinned" in his sensitivity to media criticism. The interpreter goofed, telling Yeltsin that Wallace had said, "You are a thick-skinned hippopotamus."

Shortly after we married, a speaker at a Miami meeting I attended told of efforts to translate a biblical love poem into the language of a Kenyan tribe. The phrase, "Your beauty is like that of the lily," did not connect with the rural East Africans, for whom lilies were mere cattle fodder. Their culture highly esteemed the cow, not the flower. On the advice of tribesmen, the translators rendered the romantic phrase: "You are a black cow in a herd of spotted cattle."

The speaker relating this tale suggested I use that compliment on my new bride, without explanation. Since Meg was returning to California from Philadelphia that evening, I left the cryptic greeting on our home answering machine. A few hours later, my Miami phone rang. Her first words: "And you are a thick-skinned hippopotamus!"

Most important lesson

At her memorial celebration, I presented all this, then briefly noted a conviction we shared deeply, the most important thing I’ve ever learned. I'm indebted in many ways to my Jewish friends and their heritage for it.

One ancient Hebrew book describes Job, who, despite his slew of troubles, affirmed, "I know that my Redeemer lives." (Job 19:25) That gave him hope.

A skeptic in my youth, I didn't believe my Redeemer lived. I thought it was a fairy tale. Then, my first year at Duke, I heard a lecture about Jesus' Resurrection evidences, given by Bob Prall, who later became my mentor. Jesus was executed and declared dead, wrapped like a mummy, placed in a tomb. A huge stone covered the tomb's entrance, which Roman soldiers guarded. Most of his disciples fled in fear.

Sunday morning, the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, but the grave clothes were still in place. Jesus appeared alive. Frightened disciples became martyrs because they believed he had risen.

Attempts to explain this away didn't work for me. The guard was too powerful, the stone too heavy, the disciples too timid. I realized it was true. Jesus had successfully predicted his own Resurrection. If I could trust him in areas like this where I could test him, I had grounds for trusting him in areas where I couldn't test him, such as eternal life and how to obtain it. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." (John 11:25)

Comforting? True?

Is it comforting to me that I'll see Meg again and spend eternity with God? Absolutely. But it's only comforting because I believe the evidence indicates it's also true. If it weren't true, it wouldn't be comforting.

I realize this is a controversial subject, and you may not agree. If you've not examined the Resurrection evidences, may Meg and I gently and politely encourage you to take a look? Lots of good books and websites present them. Our own site – which Meg designed and built – also presents them. RustyWright.com

We know our Redeemer lives. We hope you can as well.

And…I love you, Sweetheart.

* * *

You can visit Lasting Memories for more on this remarkable woman, including a lovely 5½ - minute memorial presentation of Meg's life (images and music; put together by several family members).

Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

In my post of June 19, 2014, I began to look at I Peter 3:15, for insight into how to respond to the persecution we receive because of our faith. Depending where we are in the world, and who is doing the persecuting, the challenges we face because of our faith can vary widely, but our response should always be the same. In my last post, I discussed the first and most important part of that response which is to turn to God. No matter what we face, we should always turn to God first for the answers.

The second half of I Peter 3:15, along with I Peter 3:16 give us the second part of our action plan. I’m afraid that many of us don’t do this part very well either, and I pray that as you read this you will really consider how to implement it in your own situations. The instruction in the rest of the passage is to always be ready to explain why we believe as we do, and to do it with courtesy and respect so that there is no basis for any accusations against us.

Let’s break it down piece by piece.

Always be ready to give an answer:
Be prepared. Think about it now, so that when you are asked, you have the words to express what you really want to express. Why do you believe as you do? Anticipate the questions that someone might ask, and have your answer ready.

To anyone who asks:
Do you understand the implication of this phrase? We should be living in a way that makes others realize that we are different, and makes them wonder why. When they wonder, eventually, when they feel comfortable in their relationship with us, they will ask. Why do you do this? Why don’t you do that? Why don’t you get angry? Why don’t you get revenge? The things that you do or don’t do that are different from the way the world does them, that’s what you need to prepare your answers about.

About the hope you possess:
Ultimately, the reason for your specific actions and reactions is the hope that you have in God, the confident expectation we have that God will fulfill His promises to us. We need to be ready to explain Christianity in general, but specifically the assurance we have that Christ is able and willing to return and to provide us with eternal life.

Yet do it with courtesy and respect:
It is not our job to bully the bullies. We should not yell and scream nor be rude, sarcastic or offensive. We certainly shouldn’t be physically attacking anyone. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people. (Romans 12:18) It is not our job to change their minds about God, only to give an answer for why we believe. It is the Holy Spirit who will change their hearts when the time is right. Look at what happened to Saul, the persecutor, in Acts 9:1-9. God has the power to redeem.

Keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you:
In Romans 12:17, just before the verse about doing everything you can to live at peace with everyone, Paul tells us not to repay evil for evil. No matter what someone else does, it is your responsibility to make sure that your actions are right. In the end we will all have to answer to God. We want to be righteous as we stand before Him on the day of judgement. (II Peter 2:9)

I do not want to discourage you from taking up the fight against injustice or the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, I want to encourage you to do so. But please, be careful of your words and your actions. Rely on Christ, put Him first in your life, and always strive to please Him. The best way to do that is to love Him and to love others. (Matthew 22:37-39)

Today's post was written by and used with permission from Rusty Wright.
---------

Want laughs, plus a way to tell a mother she's loved? Take her to see Moms' Night Out, opening Mother's Day weekend.

When I visited this film's set last year, actors and producers promised it would be a hoot. They've delivered, with loads of family fun. I laughed out loud.

Sarah Drew (Grey's Anatomy), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings trilogy; Rudy) and Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond; ABC's comedy The Middle) highlight a cast portraying the chaos of parenting.

Heaton and husband David Hunt executive-produced. Says Hunt, "None of us [parents] would survive a minute without a sense of humor…." "Because if you don't laugh, you will go crazy!" Heaton adds. "And then the kids know they're winning."

Dream life; dejected wife

Allyson (Drew) has her dream life – three adorable kids and a terrific husband, Sean (Astin) – but she's not happy. Her own lofty self-expectations are shredding her.

Sean comes home one evening to find the house a mess and Allyson sitting on the closet floor watching her DVD player and eating, semi-catatonic from the day's stresses. She needs a night out with her girlfriends.

Husbands will care for the kids while moms enjoy a dressy evening at a fancy restaurant. Sean implores Allyson to have fun: "Promise me that you'll do whatever it takes to unplug and just breathe." (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

Unplugged and exploded

Everything goes wrong. Allyson unplugs…and explodes, triggering a wild night. A trendy restaurant ejects the mommy friends, who desperately search for a missing baby at a tattoo parlor, embark on a "don't-try-this-at-home" car chase, and more.

Country singer Trace Adkins plays Bones, a tattoo artist with a checkered past who leads a biker gang that joins the baby search with volunteers from First Baptist Church, led by Sondra's (Heaton) pastor spouse, Ray (Alex Kendrick, Courageous, Facing the Giants). Can you spell i-n-C-O-N-g-r-u-i-t-y?

Mouths wide open

Twists and goofs galore keep you laughing while characters drop morsels of family wisdom down your wide open mouth. Sondra advises Allyson on parenting's craziness: "Life is…about finding the meaning and the joy and the purpose in…all the chaos and the crazy. It's knowing that God is with you on the good days and the bad days. Does my faith give me that? Yes it does. Am I always happy? No, that's a fantasy."

In his Mother's Day sermon, Ray cites a biblical Psalm: "'Children are a blessing from the Lord.' That's why the position of mother is a high calling, and one that should be honored and protected."

Bones on life

Even Bones contributes some pearls, remembered from his mother who throughout his youth reassured him of divine love. "I doubt the good Lord made a mistake giving your kiddos the mama he did," Bones assures the despondent perfectionist Allyson. "So you just be you. He'll take care of the rest."

There's much more to make you laugh and think. Watch for Sondra's secret; cops' consternation; Marco's (Robert Amaya, "Snake King" from Courageous) obsessive/compulsive fears; and Sean citing a famous poem.

On set last year, Heaton promised "Every woman in America is going to wish that she was married to Sean Astin," warning men in the assembled press corps, "You're screwed!" After a year holding my breath – and now that she's seen the film – I’m happy to report that my lovely wife Meg is still glad she married me, though she appreciates Sean's wisdom and example.

A tip: don't skip the credits at the end, or you'll miss more fun. Moms' Night Out is a Kevin Downes production of an Erwin Brothers film, shot on location in Birmingham, Alabama, and distributed by Sony Pictures/TriStar.

Rated PG (USA) "for mild thematic elements and some action"
---------
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

A note from LC:
I think this movie looks like fun even for those who aren't moms. Here's the trailer.

2

This morning one of my Facebook friends posted an article that prompted quite an interesting discussion. It was on the topic of why people are leaving the church. The author listed her reasons for leaving the church, but I’m sure each person has their own, and is certain they are valid. Whether those reasons are really valid or not, what happens next? Do you find a new church? Do you start a home church? Do you just listen to “church” programs on radio or TV? Do you read blogs on the Internet? If you choose either of the first two options you may simply be moving from the problems of one church to the problems of another. With either of the latter options you miss the fellowship and accountability of other believers.

Hebrews 10:25 is a verse that is often quoted in discussions like these, though not always fully, and often in the words of the King James Version—not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together—which is a good indication of how long that person has been going to traditional churches. It seems to be one of those verses that is quoted like a rule, and the context is not taken into consideration. Even if it were a rule, there would still be a question of how church is defined. Does it count if you have church in a non-traditional location? Does it count if you listen to church on the radio? How often do I have to attend to be okay with God? As I said in my post on tradition, Jesus cares more about the condition of your heart. He only has two rules. 1. Love God. 2. Love others. (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:29-34)

In most translations, Hebrews 10:25 starts in the middle of a sentence, so to look at the context we should go back at least to the beginning of the sentence in Hebrews 10:24. “Let us take thought of”—this actually requires some consideration—“how to spur one another on to love and good works.” Good works are the practical manifestation of love. Love is more than just a feeling; it is an act of showing concern and kindness. This requires interaction, and it requires giving, and this is the reason for the encouragement in Hebrews 10:25 to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

If church for you is only listening to the radio or TV and does not involve a connection to other believers, it is not enough. Without interaction you do not have the opportunity to give. That is not to say that the interaction and giving has to take place in a traditional church—there are other options—but meeting with other people has its advantages. Yes, challenges too, but communication with other people lets you know that you are not alone in your feelings, questions, doubts, fears or weaknesses. Others offer a different perspective, and can give you a positive point of view when all you can see is the negative. Of course that will take effort on their part, and on yours to return the favour to them.

May I encourage you not to give up on church, and not to have expectations that are too ideal to be met, but to find one where you feel like you can be who you truly are and be accepted despite your imperfections. If you are in one that you are considering leaving, why not give it a second chance? Get to really know a few people, start spurring them on to love and good works and see what happens. If you feel that you really must leave the church you are in, or you have already left, find one that encourages learning, where you are free to ask questions and express doubt, and where people support each other. Where the message that is preached is based on the Word of God and emphasizes love rather than rules. Churches like that do exist. I attend one.

Some of you don’t like confrontation. Rather than stand up to someone and tell them that you disagree with them, or that they are overstepping their boundaries, you allow other people to have their way, and sometimes to step all over you. I know because I’ve been there too. There is a delicate balance here. How do you maintain reasonable boundaries, or stand up for what you believe in without becoming argumentative or stirring up unnecessary discord?

The Apostle Paul was an example of someone who stood up for what he believed and was willing to speak his mind. And he encouraged others to do the same, including through correspondence to his young friend Timothy, part of which is found in II Timothy 1. Timothy was timid and quite possibly discouraged by all the opposition that both he and Paul were facing, but if he was going to assist Paul in sharing the gospel he would need to learn to speak up with confidence. That doesn’t mean that he needed to be loud and obnoxious and to shout down anyone who disagreed with him as, sadly, some today are in the habit of doing. He needed not only to set aside his spirit of fear, but also to take on the spirit of love and a sound mind—self-control. (II Timothy 1:7) We are all called to love our neighbour, (Galatians 5:14, Mark 12:31, Matthew 19:19) and to be ambassadors of Christ’s love, (II Corinthians 5:19-20) even with people that we find unpleasant, or wrong.

God has a unique purpose for each of us, but all of us have the responsibility to glorify God in everything that we do, and to share His love and gift of salvation with others. There will undoubtedly be times when we will encounter people who will disagree with us, sometimes vehemently. When this happens, I suggest to you as Paul did to Timothy, (II Timothy 1:6) to rekindle the gifts given to you through the Spirit. You can do this through prayer, Bible reading and study, and by finding some mentors who are strong in their faith to encourage you. Don’t be wishy-washy about what you believe in, but make sure that God’s love is evident in you when you share it.

How often have you said this to someone? If a friend has helped you out in multiple ways, you may, instead of listing each kindness, say, “Thanks for everything!” You appreciate all of the goodness. In the United States, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. It’s a day to pause and be thankful for the abundance of blessings we have in our lives. (Although I’m Canadian, and we celebrate Thanksgiving in October, many of my readers and some of my friends are American. So this post is in honour of their holiday.)

It’s fairly easy to be thankful for the good things in life. Dealing with the less pleasant things is a little harder. Did you know that the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the people of Thessalonica, instructed them to be thankful in everything? (I Thessalonians 5:18) Notice that it doesn’t say to be thankful for everything, but to be thankful in everything. Things may not always go well. In fact, we know that they will often not go well. (John 16:33) But we must always have an attitude of thankfulness to God. This won’t necessarily be how we feel, but we are instructed to choose to be thankful—thankful to God for His power, His goodness, His love, His sacrifice through Jesus on the cross, His gift of salvation to us, and perhaps most importantly during times of trial on this Earth, the promise of an eternity free of hardship and pain. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

This verse is actually only part of the sentence (I Thessalonians 5:16-18) which is part of the final instructions in the concluding paragraphs of Paul’s letter. (I Thessalonians 5:12-22) In these final instructions, Paul encourages his readers to respect their leaders, to live peacefully with each other and to help their brothers and sisters to live in a way that reflects Christ. The exhortations in verses 16-18 are more individual. They involve our personal relationship with God. No matter what our circumstance, we are to always rejoice. Even when we face trials of many kinds, good can come from the struggle. (James 1:2-4) We are to pray constantly. That doesn’t mean that we need to be on our knees with our head bowed and our eyes closed, although there are times when that kind of concentration in prayer is appropriate and beneficial. However, no matter what we are doing throughout our day, we can have an attitude of communion with God. We can consider Him in all of our decisions; we can pray while we are going about our daily tasks. If we consider and trust Him in all aspects of our lives, it will be much easier to be joyful and to be thankful.

2

My very first job as a teacher was in a Christian school. Although I had gone to church all my life, it wasn’t my first inclination to deal with disagreements in a Biblical manner. So when one of the other teachers did something that I thought was inappropriate, belittling and insulting to me, I went to a good friend, just because I had to get it out of my system. She asked me, “Have you talked to him about it?” No, I hadn’t, because he is the one who ticked me off. She told me to follow the Matthew 18:15 principle. So, I went and looked the verse up, and then went and spoke with the other teacher. We resolved the issue, and all was well.

Yes, the guideline given in Matthew 18:15 is a good principle to follow to work out differences in your interpersonal relationships, but if you look at it in the context of the following verses, you will realize that Jesus is talking about more than just a misunderstanding between friends or colleagues. If you read all four steps outlined in Matthew 18:15-17, you will see that it must involve more serious issues. These steps need to be taken if a person’s actions will hinder the relationship between a believer and our Heavenly Father.

Earlier, in Matthew 18:10-14, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep, and He says that He is not willing for any of His sheep or His children to be lost. When we get to the next paragraph, He is still not willing for any of His children to be lost, so if one has done something that might lead to that result, it cannot be overlooked. But the process is to deal with it as quietly as possible. First, you go alone and quietly tell your brother (fellow Christian of either gender) what his fault is. Now, it is entirely possible that he won’t see things the same way you do. Perhaps you will be able to persuade him of what is right, and perhaps you won’t. If you can’t, you go and find one or two more people so that a matter may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15) These one or two other people need to be objective and upstanding themselves, and not just people you can convince to take your side in a matter. After all, this should not be a personal complaint, but a serious breach of God’s principles. The point of going through the steps is not only to convince the other of his wrong, but also to confirm that you were not wrong to approach him.

If these conversations aren’t enough, you go to the church. Keep in mind, that this passage in Scripture is not an excuse to air someone’s dirty laundry in front of the entire congregation. There are some issues that never need to be shared with the entire congregation and will only cause more hurt if they are. A board or committee of the church could be entrusted to make decisions on its behalf. Remember that along with striving to be holy, Jesus wants us to love one another. If you get to the point where your erring brother refuses to listen to the church, you must treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. In fact, he has chosen to live as a Gentile or a tax collector since he has disregarded the standards that God has set. However, you are not to treat him as the Pharisees treated the Gentiles and tax collectors. You are to treat him as Jesus would have. Start fresh, and continue to try to bring him back into the fold, for your Father in heaven is not willing for any to be lost.

In last week’s post, I said that living at peace with the people around you—loving your neighbour—is more important to God than other acts of service or worship. But, what if your “neighbour” is really annoying? What if your neighbour is unreasonable? What if your neighbour has a problem with you, and you don’t think it’s justified? What if you think that you are right and he is wrong? How far will you let that disagreement go before you do something to try to resolve it?

In Matthew 5:25-26, we are advised to settle matters quickly. The longer you let a disagreement fester, the harder it will be to resolve, at least emotionally. I have to admit, this is something I have a hard time with. If I believe I am right, I feel the need to explain and to enlighten the other person. I feel the need to point out where they are wrong, so that the wrong can be fixed and the situation can be made right. I’m not very good at letting things go. I’m working on it. Matthew 5:25-26 suggests not letting a dispute linger so long that your adversary decides to take you to court. If it is left up to a judge, things might not turn out in your favour, no matter how right you think you are. In I Corinthians 6:7, Paul asks, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” than to continue to fight it out to the point of going to court.

If we only look at things from a human perspective, perhaps it might be understandable that we would fight for our rights. After all, if we don’t look out for ourselves, who will? The answer is, God will, if we allow Him into the picture. Even if we are put at a disadvantage in a situation from time to time, God is still in control of our ultimate destiny. We need to trust Him to protect us and to bless us. God has told us not to avenge ourselves, but that if it is necessary, He will avenge us. (Romans 12:19) He will take care of those who do evil. We only need to make sure that we are doing the right thing—living at peace with our neighbours, (Romans 12:18, Mark 12:29-31) settling disputes quickly, (Matthew 5:25-26) and overcoming evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

1

I’ve said for decades that communication is a wonderful thing. So many misunderstandings can happen because people do not communicate their thoughts and feelings. I’ve also learned over the years that many misunderstandings happen when people communicate as well. Words can be encouraging, or they can be hurtful, and they don’t always come across as we intended. And then, of course, there are the times when hurt is intended. I can just imagine how disappointed Jesus is at times like this. Jesus very clearly tells us that the most important commandment is to love God, but the second most important is to love each other. (Mark 12:29-31) He sets a pretty high standard for us to live up to, and though we continually fail, we need to keep trying.

In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus tells His disciples that reconciling with your brother, which in our context means any Christ-follower of either gender, is more important than bringing your offering to God. In those days, a gift for God was a sacrifice on the altar of the temple. For us, that may mean an act of service or an act of worship. It may mean participating in communion. None of it is more important to God than following the second greatest commandment.

King Saul had been given instructions to strike down the Amalekites and to destroy everything they had. (1 Samuel 15:3) But he didn’t. He spared their king, and he kept some of the choice animals to offer as a sacrifice to God. God was not pleased. (I Samuel 15:11) Saul defended himself to Samuel, but Samuel’s response (I Samuel 15:22) was that obedience was more important than sacrifice.

God’s desire is the same now as it was then. He desires our obedience which includes living at peace with all people. (Romans 12:18) This is more important than what we see as our gifts to God, and we should never think that our acts of service or worship are a way to make up for not loving our neighbour. If you have done something to offend someone, take the time to make it right with them. Then come back to the altar and give your gift to God. (Matthew 5:24) The act of service or worship you present will then be a pleasing offering.